What is a Voided Check?
Definition and Example of Voided Checks
A voided check is a check that has the word “VOID” written across the front of the check. The check can be blank or partially written, and the word “VOID” indicates that the check should not be accepted for payment. However, the check can still be used to get information needed for electronic payments.
Voiding a check “disables” the check so that it cannot be used as a blank check. In other words, a thief who steals a voided check can’t write the check to somebody by filling in a payee (like himself), entering a large amount, and signing it.
The image at the upper-left corner of this article shows a sample voided check, and you can download a larger image for easier viewing.
When to Use a Voided Check
A voided check is most often used to provide banking information so that somebody can set up an electronic link with your bank account. They ask for a voided check because checks several details about your bank printed on them:
- Where you bank (or which credit union you use)
- Your bank account number
- A code that identifies your bank (called a routing number)
Those numbers at the bottom of your check provide everything needed to deposit or withdraw funds.
Direct deposit: if your employer pays you electronically, they’ll need your account information to get the money to the right place. You won’t need to wait on paper paychecks anymore, and you won’t need to deposit checks once you get them. Sometimes the funds even hit your account a few days early.
You’ll still probably get a paper pay stub, or at least have the option to print one online if needed.
Setting up payments: if you want to stop writing checks for expenses like rent, mortgage, and insurance, you might need to provide a voided check to set up automatic electronic payments. You won’t have to get your checkbook out and mail the payment on time – or even log in to your bank’s online bill payment system.
Depending on how you set things up, the funds will be deducted from your account automatically each month (if you sign an agreement authorizing automatic payments), or you’ll have to set up each payment yourself.
Mistakes: if you make an error while filling out a check (wrong payee or amount, for example), void or destroy the check. You're not going to use it for anything, and a partially filled-out check (unless voided) is risky to keep around.
How to Get a Voided Check
Voiding a check is easy: just grab a check out of your checkbook, and write “VOID” across the front in large letters. Write with large, well-spaced letters that are tall and wide enough to cover the whole face of the check – but don’t cover the banking information at the bottom (the funny looking numbers in computer font). Use a dark pen or fine marker, the thicker, the better. You want to make it difficult for thieves to erase or cover your void mark – otherwise, they'll have a blank check.
You don’t need to sign the check or enter any other information. Make a note in your check register so that you know where the check went.
If you don’t have a check to void in your possession, there are several other options, including:
- Ask your bank for a counter check
- See if a preprinted deposit slip (for a checking or savings account) is acceptable
- See if a letter from your bank is acceptable
No Paper Required?
When you provide a voided check, the recipient copies your banking information from the check and enters it into their systems. Ideally, they’ll then shred the check so that nobody else can get their hands on that information. In fact, most companies don’t even need an original – a copy of a voided check is good enough. If somebody asks for a copy of a voided check, a standard photocopy (or even a photo from your phone) will be good enough.
But a check (or an image of one) might not be the only way to set up electronic payments. Presumably, companies ask for a printed document because:
- It reduces the chances of error – that you’ll provide the wrong information
- It reduces the chances of fraud – if you have a check, it must be your account (if you’re going to send money out of that account)
That said, consumers often provide their own routing and account numbers online without any problem, so voided checks might be a bit “traditional.” For example, online banks allow you to link external accounts by typing in those details yourself. Billers, such as utility companies, also accept “payments by e-check” when customers input their checking account information. Some businesses even take payments over the phone, allowing buyers to provide the information verbally.
Writing the word “void” on a check is the same as saying the check is “not valid.” You can’t treat it like a blank, brand-new check – filling it out and using it to make a purchase at a retailer. That said, it’s still possible to use the check to provide information about your account.